Tuesday, October 17, 2006

After no real debate, Howard "decides" Australia should go nuclear

After his disingenuous call in May this year for "a debate about nuclear energy", John Howard has now proclaimed that he thinks that Australia must embrace nuclear power (Age 17/10). The so-called debate now seems to be over before it has even really started.

Little wonder people become cynical when politicians hijack a vitally important issue like energy policy and avoid effective consultation with the broader community.

Even before Ziggy Switkowski's report on nuclear energy is published, Alexander Downer and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane have both endorsed nuclear energy. How can they do this without the facts? Where is the companion report into long-term renewable energy options to balance the pro-nuclear report coming? This is a clear abrogation of political, democratic and scientific process.

We need to know what all the options and costs are. The huge government subsidies for electricity produced from burning coal need to be revealed. We need to know the real costs in constructing nuclear power stations. Uranium is another non-renewable resource - we need to know accurate predictions on how long it will last. We need to know how much water nuclear power stations need to operate - noting that we now face ongoing severe drought.

We need to know where proposed nuclear power stations will be sited, and where the waste will be stored. Do we really want to turn Australia into a nuclear waste dump? Do we want to expose ourselves to the risk of potentially catastrophic nuclear accidents?

No government has a mandate for unilateral action on such serious matters. We need a referendum to allow everyone to participate in the decision making process.

We have twenty solar panels on our house; we produce two thirds of the power we consume, and we provide power to the grid during peak usage times such as very hot days. This technology is genuinely renewable, available now, and a lot cheaper than building new power stations. It is a dereliction of duty for our politicians to ignore it.

Link: Nuclear power: the switch is on